Welcome to Issue #49 of CAFÉ ANNE!
I was happy that the Guardian Angels were cool with the account I wrote for Issue #48 of my adventure joining them on patrol in Queens. They were not pleased, however, with the account from Ralph Gardner Jr., the reporter friend I invited to join us on patrol. Ralph’s story angle: “Aging Angels.”
Bruce, the Queens patrol leader, is still referring to me as “Sparkles,”— the honorary Guardian Angels code name he gave me after we first met last year. But he has officially stripped Ralph of his new code name, “Marcus Aurelius.”
It was with great glee that I reported this development to Ralph: “I heard from Bruce last night,” I wrote in an email. “He did not like your ‘Aging Angels’ take, and you are officially stripped of your code name Marcus Aurelius.”
Ralph’s response: “That is unfortunate news. I’ll have to cancel my new Marcus Aurelius business cards.”
More huge news: John, my drone-flying doorman—first profiled in Issue #2—is back from his knee replacement surgery and looking great!
While I am delighted by this development, his return has got me worried. As long-time readers will recall, John had been working on two rubber band balls—using bands donated by the mailman—and I had been providing regular updates on their progress.
I was thrilled when John gave me the rubber band balls for safe keeping while he was out on medical leave. “That way nobody steals them from me,” he said. “You can do whatever you want with them. As long as when I come back, they’re here.”
I put them on my shrine, of course, and life has been getting better and better ever since!
But now, every time I enter and leave the building, I’m worried that John will ask for his rubber band balls back. So far he’s been too busy greeting my neighbors and handing out dog treats. I’ll keep you posted.
Last but not least, giant CAFÉ ANNE solid gold rubber band ball shout-outs to new paid subscribers Kathryn F., Kevin and especially Robert who went whole hog and opted for the $100 “founders” subscription. I hope Robert enjoys the thrill of paying double for something he can read for free!
I am delighted with this week’s issue, as usual. We have a very cool Queens street tree find from my little brother, plus an interview with the delightful Paperboy Love Prince, NYC’s most winning loser. Please enjoy.
A Tree of Respect Grows in Queens
Earlier this fall, my little brother, who lives in Sunnyside, Queens, sent a photo of a street tree he spotted on 45th Street and 43rd Ave., next to the Walgreens. “This little tree gets more interesting every time I walk by,” he wrote.
I took a thorough inventory of his curb-side find. At the time, the arboreal display included the following:
1) A plastic thermometer
2) A combination clock/birdhouse/wind chime
3) A small Mexican doll figurine
4) A home-printed "Thank you for being respectful" sign (carefully framed with with duct tape)
5) An illustration of a creepy bald gnome suppressing the urge to vomit (also framed with duct tape)
6) A firm “NO!” to the unspoken but clearly implied question of whether it is okay to let your dog poop on the tree
7) Two plastic humming birds (grounded)
8) A tree guard (ineffective variety)
9) A water bowl for dogs (who are not allowed to poop!)
10) A pot of flowers (plastic variety)
Last week, I asked my brother to see if anything had had been added to the exhibit. His reply: “I will take a walk and report back post haste!”
An hour later, he sent some photos. I was delighted to see that the tree was sporting several new additions.
First, a plastic duck skeleton!
Next, a tree-top flag!
And the piece-de-resistance, a pile of bird seed:
The question now is whether to let this phenomenon remain a mystery, or head up to Sunnyside to find out who—or what—is behind this tree. Readers, it’s your call.
Paperboy Love Prince is NYC’s Most Winning Loser!
If you were no fun, you could say that Paperboy Love Prince is on a losing streak. The nonbinary producer-artist-designer, who lives in Bushwick, Brooklyn and runs a vintage shop-food pantry-event space dubbed “The Love Gallery,” lost a Congressional run in 2020. The Artist went on to meet defeat in the NYC mayoral primary last year and lost a second run for Congress at the end of August.
But never fear. The day after this latest loss, the candidate tweeted: “Thank you so much. Love you all. Announcing my campaign for NYC Council tonight.”
I wanted to learn more about this never-quit attitude. Paperboy is, after all, one of my favorite New York City characters—a self-invented human cartoon who, like other folks I’ve profiled including the Naked Cowboy, Captain Bayonne and Mother Pigeon, make life in the city a lot more fun. With these characters loose on the streets, you like you’re sharing your town with a set of makeshift, bonkers superheroes.
I first met Paperboy in the spring of 2021 when the artist was running for Mayor. I wrote about the candidate’s platform, which included the promise of $2,000 monthly universal-basic-income payments for every resident, free healthcare, “mansion” public housing and a 3½-day work week. Plus “Love Centers” around the city dispensing free skills classes, therapy and hugs.
There was also a plan for a series of city-owned, app-based services to rival tech giants Uber, Airbnb and Seamless that would run on blockchain and employ locally-mined digital currency. And I was not the first reporter to mention the fact that the candidate claimed to be from the future and had hired a 12-year-old public school kid to run the campaign.
But what struck me most at the time were my conversations with Paperboy’s campaign volunteers. “I’ve never met someone who genuinely cares about people this much,” one told me. “A lot of people need more love in their life. It’s not a gimmick.”
“Paperboy is genuine, and trying to make some real change in society—it’s not political doublespeak,” said another.
I was happy when Paperboy agreed to meet up again last week—and I was catching the artist at a good time. Paperboy had just returned from a long break crisscrossing the country—Reno, Las Vegas, California and the Ozarks—visiting friends and family. There was also a new album to discuss, not to mention the 20-minute documentary, “Paperboy Love Prince Runs for Mayor” which recently premiered at the annual New York LGBTQ+ Film Festival.
But first, what was Paperboy wearing? I’m glad you asked! The artist is always dressed for fun, and did not disappoint. Chatting at a Korean bubble tea/corn dog shop in Bushwick, I got the low-down on the day’s ensemble:
Cowboy hat: “I’m just vibing with it at the moment.”
Green knit shirt with furry purple Willy Wonka cuffs: “Done by an artist I used to manage and is Brooklyn-based.”
Silver metallic tights: “I got these at my store.”
Pink metallic leopard-print mini: “This skirt I made.”
Graffiti shoes: “These shoes I also did, actually. You should definitely get a photo!”
Yellow gauze Ivy Park jacket: “This is a gift from Beyoncé. That’s why I saved it for last!”
The artist told me a long story about getting the jacket in the mail after receiving an email from the singer’s publicist.
“Why do you suppose Beyoncé sent you a jacket?” I asked.
“I think she was just showing love,” said the artist.
NYC Mayor Eric Adams, who beat Paperboy in last year’s election, is also known for his eye-catching fashions. I asked the artist who of the two is better dressed—a question which earned me a look of pity.
“I don't even feel like I should answer that one,” said Paperboy. “Come on. Eric Adams himself would tell you that when you talk about New York City and fashion, and who represents that, Eric Adams himself would tell you, ‘Paperboy.’ Come on. Come on!”
“I loved the outfit you wore this summer, running for Congress,” I said. “I think you had the pink hair at that point. And that blue suit with the stars. That was so fantastic.”
“I felt very cheap wearing it,” said Paperboy. “Because I felt like I was doing that to get votes. I don't like to do things to get votes, I like to do things to make change—real change. Like me dressing how I usually dress—which a lot of times is from designers from the neighborhood. What I wore my first congressional run was all designers from the neighborhood.”
“But you know,” the artist added, “I do think I look really, really great in a great suit!”
I next asked about Paperboy’s performance in the mayoral primary. The artist actually did weirdly well in both Congressional runs, taking more than 15% of the vote from long-time incumbent Nydia Velázquez, the Democrat who has held the office since 1742. But in the mayoral race, Paperboy got just .04% of the first-place votes cast in the ranked-choice primary, an outcome I found disappointing.
But that’s not the statistic Paperboy focuses on. The important number, the artist suggested, is 67,000—the total number of voters who included the candidate in their ranking. “We did really well! said the artist. “I mean, 67,000 votes—that's larger than most cities in the world!”
And even more remarkably, Paperboy continued, the campaign spent $3,000 total. That works out to less than a 25 cents per vote compared the $25 or more per vote spent by mainstream rivals, four of whom blew more than $10 million.
“That, to me, is like something to be super proud of,” said Paperboy. “If I spent $10 million, like Andrew Yang, and I lost‚ if I spent that and lost and also got my personal life ripped apart for $10 million, I’d be livid. But I spent less than $3,000!”
“Do you regret hiring a 12-year-old as your campaign manager?” I asked.
“So actually, that was one of my best ideas,” said Paperboy. “…It helped to keep silliness at the front, and that’s hard to do. And the kid wasn't a silly kid. I could have probably got a more silly kid. But it was kind of funnier that, like, I'm sillier than the kid! He was kind of a serious kid.”
“Like a student government kid,” I said.
“Exactly!” said Paperboy. “Like a kid who thinks government is cool!”
This brought us to my favorite part of our interview, where we talked about the importance of having fun.
“It’s so hard to do politics and stay silly,” said Paperboy. “You’re constantly contending with these boring forces. They overtake everything. But does that serve community engagement? Not every part of it is going to be the Super Bowl. Most of it is going to be boring. But finding ways to make it fun, make it feel like the Super Bowl, is how we get the most out of it. That’s how you get people to put their best foot forward.”
Past campaigns have included goofy rap videos, the omnipresent pink “Love Bus,” a basketball game with rival Andrew Yang in Tompkins Square Park and events at which Paperboy and mainstream rivals like the very cool former sanitation commissioner Kathryn Garcia threw cream pies at each other. The overall vibe was refreshingly friendly.
“Everyone who worked with us had fun. Imagine losing and not having fun!” said Paperboy. “Oh my God, it had to be terrible. They had a terrible time. We did this and had fun!”
“I feel that if something is not fun, something has gone very wrong,” I agreed. “A lot of people equate fun with frivolous, but I don't agree. I'm kind of curious, if you can explain your thinking, about why it's important that things be fun.”
“It's important to me, because, you know, when are you going to have fun?” Paperboy said. “When is the time? There's a time and a place for everything, so just when is it that time? Is it Saturdays at seven o'clock? ‘Oh, time to have fun—Saturday at seven!’”
“That’s kind of how we’ve been socialized to have fun,” the artist continued. “And those are like, basically, commercial, capitalistic ways to get us to spend money to have fun, and only in those ways, at those times. It’s like, ‘Oh, yeah, have fun on your birthday!’ Because then you can get all these people to spend money on your birthday. Have fun on Christmas, have fun on the Fourth of July, have fun on the weekend.”
“And by the time they hit those occasions, people are so starved for fun, they’ll spend any amount to get it,” I said.
“Yeah, exactly,” said Paperboy. “So it’s about having a lifestyle where the fun is just more integrated.”
Speaking of which, Paperboy’s latest venture is a new album, “500 Ways to Have Fun,” recorded with 185 fellow musicians and the A.I. music company Boomy.
“It’s 500 songs on one album,” Paperboy said. “It just came out.”
This made me laugh so hard I almost fell off my stool.
“Yes! Yes! Yes! It’s 500 songs on an album,” said Paperboy. “It’s also a community project to raise money for [community food nonprofit] ourfoodnyc.”
The album was largely recorded on Paperboy’s Love Bus parked at Union Square. The artist invited passersby to come in off the street, select an AI-generated track in the genre of their choice, and record vocals. “All ages, genders, backgrounds, it was just wild,” said Paperboy. “Seeing like, an older Muslim man and a young sorority girl both recording at the same time—that’s on the album.”
The resulting 14-hour, 48-minute musical odyssey includes delights such as the electronic wonder, “Booty Like a Desktop Computer,” (track 42) and the Covid-inspired groove, “Spreading Love at the Hospital,” (track 283)”.
With the attention focused on music, Paperboy hasn’t spent much time on politics lately, but I still had to ask how the city might look now if the artist had been elected Mayor last year.
“A utopia!” said Paperboy. “My plan was the Utopia plan. So many people happy, more people getting into friendships, more people getting into relationships. More colors everywhere! Better health for everyone, more mental health. It would be more a dream state. We just feel anything is possible. It would be much more inspired. The city would just look a lot different, it would just be much more creative, playful, it would be like an amusement park. But it would really be more inclusive.”
Paperboy envisioned drawing names out of hat and appointing random people to be mayor for the day. “I wanted to win so that I can literally give that power to the people…How many less people might act out on the subway, or in different places, if they know that there's other outlets for them to be heard?” said the artist.
For Paperboy, leadership not so much about the mechanics of setting policy and running the government. While politicians come and go, said the artist, it’s the government workers who really run the city.
Paperboy sees a leader’s role as inspiring others to get involved in their community, to care for their fellows and find new ways to contribute.
“If I can inspire one teacher to think about teaching differently, one principal, one sanitation worker to think of their job differently, what is that going to do?” said Paperboy. “And then if I can actually provide opportunities that reward folks that are thinking outside the box. There's no way that we can lose!”
Paperboy suggested there was one more way the last three campaigns could be seen as wins—there are more politicians these days injecting the concepts of love and care for others into the conversation—not to mention fun. The artist takes credit for that.
I should have pressed for examples. Instead, I asked what’s next. Paperboy, it seems, is definitely running for City Council. But also maybe for president. Or maybe both!
“After couple more years of this, how could we not be one of the most powerful political voices in the country?” said the artist. “And this is with zero wins! Zero wins! You know? I think a lot is changing. We shall see!”
CAFÉ ANNE is a free weekly newsletter created by Brooklyn journalist Anne Kadet. Subscribe to get the latest issue every Monday!
I love everything about this, Sparkles.
Also, am scheming a guerilla social experiment: posting signs that say "Thank you for being respectful" in various locations and watching what happens. Will people start acting more respectful? TIME WILL TELL.
How did I miss PaperBoy on the ballot??? I should have voted for him! What a fantastic New Yorker. And, as always, Anne, you really brought out his personality. I feel like I was just hanging out with the two of you for the past few minutes.